Pinterest is the fastest growing social media platform right now. It went quickly from being a new site to an internet phenomenon. It is now the 7th most visited social media site.
As it turns out, Pinterest is a great fit for applications within the construction sector.
For this episode on Pinterest, I brought back to the podcast Mark Johnson FAIA. If you remember, he was a member on our panel on blogging a few episodes ago.
Take a listen by clicking the orange “play” button above.
- Pinterest Website
- Inhabitat Website
- Inhabitat on Pinterest
- Mark’s Pinterest board on the Formica Group Highlights from the International Builder Show – 2012
- Article on Pinterest on the Entrepreneur website
- Mark Johnson FAIA’s website
Listen to the entire episode by clicking the orange “play” button above. Or you can check out the entire text transcription of the discussion by clicking here: [spoiler]Cesar: Hello Mark. How are you?
Mark: I’m doing great today Cesar, how about yourself?
Cesar: I’m doing great. We’re having a little problem there with our Skype connection, but I think we’ve got it all figured out now. So we can start talking about Pinterest. What do you say?
Mark: That sounds great and it’s an exciting topic, thanks for having me on your show.
Cesar: No problem. I follow your tweets a lot. You are very active in the social media realm. Especially in the construction area. You’re a bit of a pioneer that way and I think you’re doing a great job there. So every time something new that comes around. I know that I was going to ask you, you’re going to know something about it. More than I do.
Mark: Ha-ha. Well thank you.
Cesar: Mark I was watching the Oscars last night and I’d love to say that my wife made me do it but actually it was my choice. And there was a quote from a movie. And I thought it was really interesting. It’s from a movie called Margin Call. I haven’t seen it. I had to look it up. But the character says there are three ways to make a living in this business the first is smarter or cheat. And I thought it was brilliant. And a construction site for 30 days, but I don’t know about you I don’t really like to be competing on the lowest price all the time. I don’t think it’s a very good approach to doing business I think eventually the construction sector is going to migrate out of this hopefully. But when we’re talking about being first, being smarter or cheating. Of course we’re not going to cheat. So we have to be first or be smarter. And I think Pinterest. If you’re on the internet at all you’ve probably heard a lot of buzz around this. And so much so that I had to go and join and see what it was about. So since it’s new I think it’s a good thing for people to be first. For sure Pinterest is fairly new and it’s mostly used to display pictures and things that are visual. So can you tell me what your first thoughts are about Pinterest and how it could relate to the construction sector?
Mark: You bet, glad to do that. Well I first became aware of it last fall as a site that’s been around for a little while. And for anybody who is wondering it’s just the word interest with a p in front of it and Pinterest.com is where you can pin any image that’s accessible from a website on the internet onto a board. So they call them Pinterest boards. And as I was watching it from afar, not yet a member, I noticed that the design community and especially the interior design community was all over Pinterest. And that’s when I decided I really needed to check this out and see how it relates to architecture and construction which are really more my core background. So the first thing that I thought was that was fascinating about it, as you know Cesar, architects and designers will often share a sample board of products that are going to be used on any construction project. It’s just part of the process and you review often times its interior finishes, colors, but it can be the exterior products as well. And having grown up as an architect, pre-internet, I know that those boards take a lot of time to put together. So now imagine a place online where any product that you have specified for a project can now have an image pinned onto a virtual board, at Pinterest, and better yet for the manufacturer is that when you pin a link is already created from that Pinterest board back to the website where that image originated. So for anybody who’s looking over that board, who says gee I like that product, but I’d like to learn more about it, what’s the skew number, how do I order it? Where’s distribution, et cetera, et cetera. All they need to do is click on that URL and they’re immediately taken to a product site. In the case of my Pinterest boards and I can’t think of a closer connection for any product maker and a potential designer or specifier of their product.
Cesar: Wow I hadn’t thought about this angle, but this is pretty true about. It’s an online version about what they see when we go into construction trailers and they have… and usually towards the end of the project cycle they’ll have the boards on the wall with the finishes and tile samples and carpet samples. And I think it’s a great way for manufacturers and designers to create links back to their sites as you said. It’s a very visual tool. If you’re familiar with facebook, in facebook there’s a lot of text, a lot of conversations. While Pinterest mostly looks like a pin board of pictures.
Mark: That’s correct. It’s very visual and I would say that one of the challenges for the construction industry because I run across this in a couple of recent social media campaigns where the quality of the images that they were able to provide me were not that great. So if you get into this area, you’re competing with beautiful professional photography from various websites. A Pinterest board that I just completed a couple of weeks ago for the international builders show was showing progress photos and other types of images for the cool energy house. At was produced by the building America retro fit alliance. In collaboration with the department of energy. But a lot of their images that they were taking as they retrofitted this home to turn it into a net zero energy home were pictures of behind the walls. What the insulation details and the mechanical systems looked like. And that’s hardcore building science. It’s important stuff but it’s not as visually appealing. And that might be one of those challenges for the construction industry to get a little bit more traction on a site like this.
Cesar: Not this is, of you’re familiar with what we do here at Remontech images and pictures are right up our alley. We do time lapse videos. We take snapshots of construction projects during the project execution. Now what do you think of this idea of having a Pinterest board dedicated specifically to a project? Is that what you were talking about that one that you made? So you can have progress pictures but also architectural drawings and renderings. You know pictures of a ground breaking ceremony. Just a board of images for that specific project.
Mark: Yes. Exactly and what I think is kind of exciting about that you’ve got all sorts of people taking pictures along the way and if you think of Pinterest as an easy way to document that and then share it with a much broader audience. You mentioned posting these things on a website which forms often do. Or in the construction trailer where samples are on display, but with the growth of Pinterest which is now, on a percentage basis, the fastest growing social network. And I just read the other day that it’ the 7th most visited social network out there. So isn’t that a great place to share all of the images of your construction projects and …
Cesar: If I create a Pinterest board can other people add pictures to that board that I created or is that just for me?
Mark: It’s in the setting and you can in fact have other people contribute, so it can be a collaborative process and that can be exciting too. You want to make sure that anybody you allowed would be a trusted resource and that they would put up good images and their narratives would be correct. Btu absolutely it can be collaborative.
Cesar: So for those who are not familiar with Pinterest, and who have never seen it, can you give us like a work flow of how you get started. What do you do? What are the options? How to get it set up?
Mark: Sure yeah you… I think this was part of their marketing savvy and that was to say that it’s invitation only. So you can request an invitation for them or if you know somebody who is on Pinterest all they have to do is send you an invite. And at that point, it’s really quite simple. In fact because I think I had read their evaluation is now about 100 million. I think they are able to do a little more investment on the back end. Because things like search capabilities and so on, on Pinterest have been pretty basic. But that seems to be ramping up and they seem to be doing more all the time. But anyway what you would do is say that I want to create a board and then you add a Pinterest icon or label to your toolbar at the top of your page when you’re online. And anytime that you were on a website that looks interesting and it does need to have some visuals, it can’t be all text. You simply click on that Pinterest button and it will pull up all of the images on that page that are available. So it might be one image. But if it’s a visual site it might be ten images. And then what’s neat is you just look through those images and you pick the one that you would think would be the best one to add to his pin board. You click it or pin it and then it automatically picks up that URL. You decide which of your pin boards it’s going to be added to if you have more than one. And then at that point you can add a description of it. I’d like to talk for a moment about curation. And that’s part of my approach to social media. I’m known as not only an architect and designer, but because I haven’t practiced actively for a number of years, I am a curator. I gather information and share it. And one of the things that are happening currently with Pinterest is that it’s growing so fast and a lot of people who are creating pin boards are not being careful about giving credit to the original site of where that image came from. Whether it’s photography credit, a building product credit, et cetera, et cetera. And unfortunately Pinterest is a little bit on the defensive about that and one of their new offerings is an app basically that websites can use to block people from pinning images from their website. And I hope that doesn’t gain too much traction. But all of that being said when I create a Pinterest board I’m very careful about making sure that I’m citing the correct web page. In the description I acknowledge the source. And you could call that Pinterest etiquette.
Cesar: But that makes sense because, something that I always adhere to is the motto of making the internet a better place. And usually that refers to content. Write content that is useful that people will want to share. That’s what I’m trying to do with the podcasts. Creating good content for the construction site and so far this has been focused on text and … and Pinterest is going to bring beauty to the internet because now you want to get pinned on Pinterest so you better have some nice pictures on your page. And so besides create content that is text based, people are going to want to have high quality graphics and pictures in the hopes that they get pinned onto Pinterest and there are copycats that will come along I’m sure. What do you think?
Mark: Yeah I think that’s a great observation Cesar. What’s interesting about that is, I read about this and I’m pretty particular when I do my own photography about using the best quality images that I can. So I don’t typically share images off of the cell phone. I have a camera and I like to download those. Editing a little enhancing and cropping. And then I’ll post them to Flickr and I’ll tweet them from there. Or share them at facebook or wherever. But you have a whole generation of people now taking pictures on smart phones. And those cameras are getting better and better. But I will see a lot of images or pictures shared on tweets, using things like twit pic and some of the other… yeah instagram, exactly. And then I’ll go to those. And the quality is so poor that often now if I see it’s a picture and that’s where the source is and I know it’s been taken with a smartphone and it may be marginal. So that’s where there is a distinction between I think just snapping a shot or creating something that’s attractive enough that people will want to add it to a board. You know as an architect or designer you’re going to put your best stuff out there if you’re creating a sample board for a client, because that’s part of your reputation.
Cesar: Right. Going back to your observation of wanting to make sure that you keep information, where the picture came from and the website and the links. I think that’s in the interest of those person who’s pinning to because in the end people are going to visit your Pinterest site or page because they, are you providing good content, good link to them. Not just the pretty pictures so I agree with you that we need to keep the links; make sure that they are correct. Not only to give the image proper credit but to provide the full value of that image to whoever is visiting your page. Do you agree?
Mark: Absolutely yeah, and let me cite a quick case study. I just read this the other day and I thought it was pretty interesting. Everybody wants to know if I’m going to spend time on the social media sites and have a presence there and so on. Is there an ROI for that investment of time? So from the standpoint of someone in the construction industry, and let’s just say it’s a firm that’s showcasing their work, will it lead to new work or leads? Or enhancing their reputation? Or reaching a whole new audience that they may not be reaching on their website; are those sort of questions. I think the model that I had seen was really more of a retail business but I think that’s only a step away from some of the product manufacturers that we work with. And then also their distribution. So here was a retail site that did not have their own Pinterest board, but in fact they have great photography on their website. So they’re getting pinned a lot and their able to track the source of people coming to their site and they were saying that they were getting a whole lot of leads or views of their website through Pinterest. And they were able to analyze it and basically monetize it to show that yes that investment in photography is getting them exposure on Pinterest that’s leading to increased sales.
Cesar: Interesting. Yeah that makes sense. And you know we see this with every, you’re in the construction site, you probably know this that. I talk about this all the time about how we’re the slowest moving industries out there when it comes to new things and technology. We’ve been building buildings the same way for millennia now and it works so we don’t feel the need to change. Btu just as it was with twitter, people used to say oh that’s for teenagers or for people who are into text messaging and now you see everybody’s on twitter, general contractors and sub-contractors and electricians, architects and I think they just learn to use the tool to fit their needs. And I think the same is going to happen with Pinterest. Especially because with construction projects there’s that aspect of beauty in the architecture and the design, I think it’s a great fit for a tool like this. And it’s just a matter of time before people learn how to use it and adapt to exactly what they want it to do, do you think?
Mark: Yes I think traditionally the construction industry has been a little bit slow in terms of being on the forefront of technology. But I think they’ll be some creative types out there who figure out a way to really make use of this tool and I would encourage folks to get on board. I’d like to cite 2 more examples if I could that are very relevant to our industry. One is when you create a Pinterest board, there are a selection of categories and you can categorize that, this helps with internet search. We’ll there are only 32 categories that are offered on Pinterest. And because of where it falls in the alphabet the very first category is architecture.
Cesar: Yeah I noticed that.
Mark: Yeah so what I am seeing is that we all know at the end of a good project a lot of money is spent on professional photography. So all of that photography, great architecture and construction projects is now posted on websites and other places. And I think Pinterest realized that was a huge repository if you will. So architecture is a category and a very popular one. And another example at the site that gets it and I like their site and I like what they do because habitat.com has done a nice job. Whether it is a website or blog or whatever you’d like to call it. Of sharing architecture and design projects and I would say heightening the awareness of good design with consumers. And at the end of the day it’s those consumers who all pay the bills for hiring designers and architects and construction firms. And to showcase good projects and to get a community of consumers interested in that has been great. Well as it turns out if you do a search on Pinterest of in habitat, you see that their photography is pinned all the time. There may be thousands of pictures. So that’s kind of another neat example of a site that’s built a great reputation online, but now their beautiful content is being accessed and used and re-pinned in Pinterest.
Cesar: If for the listeners who are either construction professionals or of they are construction business owners. What’s your suggestion to get started? Should they just create an account and start pinning things or what should they do?
Mark: Okay well first they need to request an invitation or find somebody who will send them an invitation, that’s pretty simple. And then I think the first thing is to if they’re going to be promoting one of their own projects and showcasing it, use strategy like on their own website. What’s a great project, but in this case what’s the best photography or drawings as you mentioned, nay sort of visual images that I could use to post or tell a story about the project. And then just experiment with the Pinterest board that would be relevant to either that particular project or maybe the entire firm. I’ve also seen that people are creating Pinterest boards of live events and I’ve done some of that. So for example coverage of a show home or a trade show, where you’re doing photography people love seeing themselves in pictures and that’s a nice way of interacting as well. You can’t tag people in pictures yet on Pinterest, the way facebook works. But it’s another dimension of that online sharing.
Cesar: Well Mark that was really, really educative. Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. I’m sure the audience will get a lot from this conversation.
Mark: Well you’re welcome Cesar it’s always a pleasure to talk to you about some new social network and how we can use it to better our industry. I appreciate your commitment to that and doing everything that you do.
Cesar: No problem. Anything we want to learn more about you and connect with you, where should they go?
Mark: Yes my site markitect.me is my home website and I blog there and shares some of the services that I do so if folks would like to learn more that’s a great place to go.
Cesar: And if you want an invite to Pinterest you can email me at email@example.com and I’ll send you an invite. Thank you Mark and I know you have it already for the listeners.
Mark: Yeah you’re every welcome Cesar.
Cesar: Thanks again Mark and can I count on you again for a future episode?
Mark: Absolutely and some topics that would be exciting to share with you on a future podcast.
Cesar: Fantastic thanks again.